A pair of trail-blazing companies spun out from Keele University have been shortlisted for the prestige Lord Stafford Awards for innovation.

SciSite has developed a machine which can detect rusted metal in concrete – potentially saving many hours for frustrated motorway drivers worldwide.

Meanwhile, nanoTherics, at Guy Hilton Research Centre, in Hartshill, has developed technology that could be used to treat genetic diseases.

SciSite was founded in 2005 by Professor Peter Haycock and Dr Matthew Hocking.

The company has developed a machine which uses an x-ray-style device which can detect rusted metal in structures such as roads and bridges without the need to open concrete.

The new technology uses a probe on a trolley-like frame, similar to a golf trolley, manually run over a surface with results analysed to establish where erosion is taking place and how severe it is.

SciSite will be up against North Staffordshire opponents nanoTherics in the finals at Worcester Cathedral on November 13.

nanoTherics was formed in August 2007 to build on pioneering joint research into gene transfer by scientists at Keele and the University of Florida.

Effectively, the technology uses a process known as transfection, whereby tiny particles and magnets are used to place DNA in living cells.

These “transfection genes” could then be used to treat genetic problems such as cystic fibrosis.

nanoTherics is now seeking to produce the device used for the transfection process for commercial use and has secured funding from the Mercia Seed Fund, which provides venture capital to new technology businesses in the West Midlands.

The company has been shortlisted in the Impact Through Innovation category at the Lord Stafford Awards.

Now in their 11th year, the Awards recognise and showcase the best of collaborations between West Midlands universities and businesses.

Professor Jon Dobson, director at nanoTherics, said: “This technology is completely new and is not being used anywhere else.

“We have already begun to make sales of the device with orders taken from Florida, Ireland and the UK and it is clear that there are many internationally-based laboratories and industrial companies interested in having access to and using nanoTherics products.

“Our early sales of these devices suggest there is a strong market for the solution offered by our technology and the potential market could be worth billions.

“We are delighted to have secured a place on the shortlist for the Lord Stafford Awards as we feel our innovative product could have a major impact on lives in the future.”

Lord Stafford, patron of the awards, said: “Both SciSite and nanoTherics are excellent examples of how technology developed within universities can, with the right support, be spun out and exploited for commercial use.

“Although they are both very different, they have the potential to have a massive impact on the lives of people around the world.”